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There Have Been 141 Protests & Threats Against Drag Events This Year

Drag queen story hour
A drag queen story hour in Massachusetts photographed by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Some of the incidents were violent, and the largest number took place in Texas, according to an updated report by GLAAD.

At least 141 protests and threats against drag events across 47 states have happened in the U.S. this year, according to research by GLAAD and Equality Texas.

These include incidents during Pride celebrations "and false rhetoric against performers deployed in campaign ads for the midterm elections," the research report says. "The analysis shows increasingly violent rhetoric and incidents as the year progressed, including armed white supremacists demonstrating in Texas and the firebombing of a Tulsa donut shop that had hosted a drag event in October. Equality Texas documented additional targeted events throughout the year, including an armed demonstration and confrontation in San Antonio."

Texas has the dubious distinction of leading all states with 20 documented incidents. North Carolina was next with 10, followed by Illinois with eight, Tennessee and California with six each, and Georgia with five. There were no incidents reported in three states -- South Dakota, Rhode Island, and West Virginia -- and the District of Columbia. Some may have taken place, but they weren't covered by the media.

"While many of the incidents were reported in smaller cities and towns in the South and Midwest, a number also took place in areas with higher LGBTQ populations and LGBTQ-inclusive communities," the report notes. "New York saw four protest incidents, three of which took place in New York City." Events were also targeted in such major cities as Philadelphia, Memphis, Dallas, Cleveland, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

In addition to the firebombing in Tulsa, the violent occurrences included armed protesters threatening events in Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Nevada. In Eugene, those who objected to a drag performance threw smoke bombs and rocks. In South Carolina, there was a bomb threat against a restaurant hosting a drag brunch, along with threats to kill the performers.

The November 19 mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs is not included in the total, even though the club had a drag performance that night, because a motive in the shooting has not been determined.

Many of the protests and threats took place after right-wing media outlets, such as Fox News Channel and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like Libs of TikTok circulated false information about drag events, GLAAD reports.

"A Media Matters report from June found that Fox News had devoted more hours to targeting drag queens and transgender people than to coverage of the January 6th insurrection hearings," according to the research report. "A Media Matters analysis in November found that disturbing misinformation about drag had ramped up on Fox News and the Daily Wire in the weeks before the Tulsa firebombing, with Tucker Carlson falsely claiming that drag queens 'want to sexualize children,' and the Daily Wire's Matt Walsh calling on police to 'break down the doors' of LGBTQ clubs and arrest drag queens."

White supremacist groups including Proud Boys and Patriot Front were often involved in the actions against drag shows.

"Every time extremists turn their attention to drag performances, they amplify the lie that these performances are somehow dangerous," Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez said in a press release. "On the contrary, when extremists protest library story time they are interrupting programming that encourages a healthy love of reading, simply because they hate the reader. The same extremists and politicians who support them have actually failed to protect Texas children. Why are they not focused on guns in schools, our broken [child protective services] system, and any of the many other issues that demand our attention? A little glitter and heavy contouring never hurt anyone. The cost of these malicious lies is extreme, and we've seen a marked increase of bullying and violence against LGBTQ+ youth and adults alike. Drag is a joyful way to play with gender expression, which can be liberating for young people who are learning how they fit in the world. Businesses and performers that create these safe spaces deserve to be free from harassment and fear."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis added, "These attacks against drag events and performers are part of a truly alarming trend of targeting LGBTQ people and youth through baseless legislation, vile rhetoric, school censorship, book bans and intimidation. Extremists are increasingly emboldened by reckless politicians who smear LGBTQ people and our allies. Their disinformation is spread widely by extremist accounts on social media and encourages violence. GLAAD urges media to challenge politicians spreading false and harmful information about the LGBTQ community, and ask how they are working to ensure every citizen is safe."

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